The Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince still lies in ruins after a devastating earthquake which destroyed it in January 2010. Haiti has the largest population of any of the Caribbean nations but equally its people are some of the poorest. It is the poorest nation in the Americas.

More than $US2 billion in aid has been fed into the country but the crisis has not abated. Lawlessness still reigns. People are still homeless. About 1.5 million individuals have fled the capital to camps in other regions in an effort to rebuild their lives.

One such group of homeless people – 25 families – have been living on a private block of land in the Lascahobas area. They were due to be evicted at the end of 2011.

That is, until a group of international organisations stepped in to set up a housing cooperative.

Locally, the Housing Cooperative and Solidarity Mutual COLONSO and the Groupe d’Appui aux Rapatries et Refugies (GARR) have come together with the international organisations, the International Co-operative Alliance’s America’s arm (ICA Americas), the Swedish Cooperative Centre (SCC) and the Uruguayan Federation of Mutual Aid Housing Cooperatives (FUCVAM) to start the cooperative.

The cooperative sector in Haiti also suffers from the same sense of distrust by the population as much of the nation’s other institutions and public sector organisations. Misuse of funds has seen the cooperative movement struggle to prosper with only some credit cooperatives and agricultural cooperatives in operation.

Nevetheless, if its history is anything to go by, the Haitian people will once again begin to thrive. As a nation they have much of which to be proud. Haiti was the first country in Latin American and the Caribbean to win independence and the first black-led republic when a slave revolution freed it in 1804.

This story is an IYC Yearbook feature: